Why Do I AgVocate? – Kyndal Reitzenstein

What is your role in agriculture?

My role in agriculture is to inspire, teach and show what we do as agriculturists. It is important I do my best to describe how farmers create, care for and treat our nation’s food. My responsibility is to show society how important agriculture truly is in our everyday lives and the impact it makes on our nation as a whole.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

My inspiration for becoming an agvocate is my family and the atmosphere that I surround myself in. I have grown up on a farm where we wake up in the morning and tend to our animals. Sometimes this is an all day task. It is hard to explain how much the agricultural industry has done for me and my family. It has allowed me to become involved in livestock judging and receive numerous scholarships to help me pay for college. My inspiration is the opportunities that await me and others in the agriculture world and it is my duty to agvocate about the industry that has done so much for me.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

My favorite part of being an agvocate is working with kids. I enjoy helping young kids get involved in agriculture and helping them realize that their hard work pays off.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

The most challenging part of being an agvocate is dealing with the anti-agriculturalists. I understand there are some people out there that do not believe in what we do, which is how this world keeps spinning. It is hard for me to fathom that, but I know if I keep staying positive about what we are doing, then there is bound to be progress over time.

What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

My advice for other farmers and ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy would be to take baby steps at a time. Start off with a small goal that you have and keep working your way up to what is comfortable for you. It is hard to wake up in the morning and think of all the things that you use daily that do not involve agriculture. But, it is easy to list all of the things that you use daily that do involve agriculture. Any involvement in agvocacy is tremendous for our industry. The more we get the word out about what we are doing, the better.

What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?

My biggest takeaway from viewing Twitter chats is to always keep an open mind about who your audience is and how they may view things. Not everyone has the same views on some of the topics being discussed, so it is very important to always stay neutral and never get defensive about other viewpoints.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

The AgChat Foundation is an organization that I have a lot of respect for. They provide connections between farmers and agricultural enthusiasts to help explain our role in the world to the rest of society. The foundation provides numerous conferences throughout the year providing information and facts about agriculture. The AgChat Foundation also uses social media to reach out to consumers and farmers. Personally I think it is amazing to have an organization that stands for agriculture and believes in describing the importance that it portrays to the world.


Kyndal ReitzensteinKyndal Reitzenstein is from a small, rural community in Kersey, Colorado. She grew up on a cattle operation where her family primary raises Angus cattle. Her parents, Mark and Kaye, and brother, Austin work as a family raising cattle and competing around the nation showing cattle and pigs. She is currently a senior at Oklahoma State University where she is majoring in animal science and agricultural communications. Kyndal plans on graduating in December with hopes of continuing on to graduate school and study animal reproduction.

Follow Kyndal on InstagramFacebook & Twitter

I scream, You Scream, We all scream for Ice Cream


By Jenna Kilgus

Earlier this month, I gave a tour of my farm to twenty pre-school aged children from a local day care. I asked them, “What’s your favorite dairy product.”

Unsurprisingly, I received an enthusiastic, loud and simultaneous answer: “ICE CREAM!!”

July is National Ice Cream Month. I love to celebrate and I’m guessing almost all Americans do to. Whether it’s chocolate, strawberry or vanilla, most people love ice cream.

It’s a favorite treat on my farm for two reasons. One, because it is cold and perfectly refreshing after a long day of baling hay, and two, because our farm has an ice cream machine!

The soft serve machines runs Monday through Saturday in our little on-farm country store. That’s right. My three kids have daily access to ice cream. They’re the most popular kids at school because their mom brings ICE CREAM to school for their birthday treats.

We started making soft serve ice cream mix on our dairy farm in 2009, when we took a leap of faith and built an on-farm milk-bottling creamery. We decided we needed to diversify our operations and increase our income in order to bring two more family members back to our family farm full time.

After traveling all over the Midwest, researching what draws consumers to country stores, quickly realized we needed two things: a viewing window where visitors could watch the milk bottling process, and something yummy for them to snack on while they watched, so we bought an ice cream machine.

Today in our creamery, fluid milk is our primary product, but we still make 10 gallons of ice cream mix per week. It doubles to 20 gallons in the hot summer months when our ice cream cone sales go up.

Our little soft serve machine gets a good cleaning once a week, and then we change the flavor. We always have vanilla, but also switch it up. We rotate between the old favorites – strawberry, chocolate, caramel – and throw in some new flavors: pina colada, egg nog, watermelon, root beer, and our customers’ current favorite, lemon. In total, we have more than 15 flavors of ice cream that we rotate between.

Looking out my kitchen window while washing up our supper dishes, I usually see a family or two, sitting on the front patio of our store, enjoying the fresh country air, and an ice cream cone. What can be more enjoyable than a trip to the county, visiting a farm, and getting a taste of what those hard working cows can produce!


Family Feature: Maine and Chianina Junior Nationals | June 17 – 24

feature piece from Kyndal Reitzenstein

Grand Island, Nebraska hosted the Maine and Chianina Junior Nationals this year. Exhibitors from all across the nation participated in numerous contests and shows. The Higgins family from Auburntown, Tennessee, competed at junior nationals. I was lucky enough to talk with Allison and Amelia about their operation and how advocating for agriculture plays a role in their families operation.

Tell me a little bit about your family/operation.

Our farm is located in Auburntown, TN, approximately 50 miles east of Nashville. We have about 65 IMG_6788registered Chiangus cows and a handful of Angus dams. We started raising Chiangus cattle in 1986, and our brother, Andy, began showing in 1995. Our family has been active in the Chi industry ever since then.

How many years has your family been showing?

Allison- My first show was the DeKalb County Fair in 2002 when I was 8 years old. I attended Chianina Junior Nationals in 2004 when I had reached the minimum age required, and I haven’t missed one since then. At 22, this year was my thirteenth and last Junior National. I’m sad to see my junior career come to an end, but working consistently toward my goals over the years has allowed me to be competitive on a national level. That’s something I could only dream about when I started showing!

Amelia- My first show was the Wilson County Fair in 2003 when I had just turned 8 years old. I had attended Junior Nationals in 2003 and 2004 to watch my siblings show, but the first Junior Nationals I actually exhibited a heifer at was in Richmond, IN, in 2005. As Alli said, we have shown at every Chianina Junior National since. It’s kind of fun to look back and remember where the Nationals were each year and remember the first time I even won a class. At that time, I never imagined I could possibly win the whole show in 2014!

What has showing done for your family?

Allison- Showing cattle has shown me the value of perseverance and hard work. Washing heifers day after day can get a little tiring, and there were some days I definitely wanted to be doing something else. However, I knew that if I ever wanted to be successful, I had to be diligent. My brother and his example have taught me almost everything I know about cattle and shown me how important relationships with others in the industry can be. I’ve met tons of amazing people and traveled through a majority of the United States by showing cattle. I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve been presented as a result of being involved in the cattle industry.

Amelia- Along with the wonderful attributes of the cattle industry that my sister described, I was fortunate enough to serve on the American Junior Chianina Association Board of Directors for four years, giving me even more opportunities to grow and develop with my personal life, as well as professional. Attending Youth Beef Industry Congress in 2012 allowed me to meet young leaders in other breeds across the nation and develop relationships with them. Learning to work with our board and making influential decisions in our breed’s organization taught me the value of thinking through and analyzing situations before coming to a conclusion. The experiences and lifelong friends gained in the cattle industry are truly irreplaceable.

How have you inspired young exhibitors to keep showing or get involved?

Allison- I’ve always tried to be a good example to young exhibitors and encourage them to work hard and be persistent towards their goals. I’ve done demonstrations at Middle Tennessee State University Beef Camp that teach the kids everything from setting up their stalls at a show to proper hair grooming to showmanship skills and technique. I hope that they’ve learned from me that if you want something badly enough, you can’t be lazy in trying to obtain it.

Amelia- As my sister and I come to the end of our show careers, we are sad that our time is almost over, but we have started teaching our 10 year-old cousin the ropes of showing cattle. He has always had a strong desire to be involved with livestock, but since he doesn’t live on a farm, it is difficult for him. His first show was a small cattle show at the high school a couple of years ago, but this year is the first year that he will be old enough to show at Tennessee 4-H Beef Expo, so we are preparing him for that now. He is usually a fast learner, but we try to encourage him when he isn’t sure how well he is doing. I hope he stays involved for many years to come.

What do you love most about the agricultural industry?

Allison- The values and lessons I have learned through agriculture are something that could never be taught in a classroom. When I would tell the other kids in elementary school about all the work that goes into living on a farm and showing cattle, they didn’t understand why I would want to spend so much time laboring over it. Today, some still don’t understand the role that agriculture plays in their lives. I love being a part of an industry that impacts every single person on the planet, whether they realize it or not.

Amelia- This summer I am interning at Tennessee Beef Industry Council, and a reoccurring theme we always seem to talk about is how much we love the people in the beef and agriculture industries. We all in the industry share a love for agriculture, and it seems to make each other better to understand. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, but there is just something about the people in this industry that I just love.

We would like to thank the Higgins family for their time dedicated to the AgChat Foundation! 


Bringing Back Why We AgVocate

It is easy to get caught up in the numbers, likes, views, rates and excitement of social media. I remember when I first became addicted to Twitter. Every day my husband would arrive home, and the first topic of discussion was the increase in followers. There was a thrill and surge of adrenaline to see those numbers jump higher and higher. I began my Twitter following by highlighting ten Twitter accounts each Monday night. With my main following and focus being in the mommy blogger realm, I would mix things up and add a few agriculture related people into the list each week. The bulk of the features included fellow moms, photographers and home renovation accounts. I had set a high bar of the number of new weekly followers which should be gained by this little project.

We all set expectations for ourselves, our blogs, Facebook farm or fan pages and at times become driven by metrics. When the metric benchmarks aren’t achieved we become frustrated or discouraged. Social media then potentially becomes a numbers game. And, I really got lost in focusing on those numbers rather than who those followers were. It was one of my first social media lessons on the never ending learning curve.

The lesson I have learned for myself is that social media should never be about the numbers but the connections and the impacts you make, big or small. I won’t lie, the increase in followers is still a confidence shot in the arm. Its just that today, I get the shot while also taking a spoonful of analysis to determine if those followers are my target audience – people outside of agriculture.

Some may find success in their stats or metrics expectations. However, before many “agvocates” realize it, we can forget why we began advocating for agriculture, telling our stories or agvocating, whichever descriptor you prefer. I’m no different. I was derailed and lost sight of why I was doing all of this social media stuff. Its also easy to get caught up in meeting the expectations of what others think you should be accomplishing in your advocacy journey. In either case, you cannot let that detract you from your original goal of AgVocacy.

The hardcore truth is that there’s a high likelihood that at some point we have all fallen to the numbers and expectations. If you don’t think that you have, I challenge you to sit down and review your path from beginning to present.

In an effort to bring the ‘why’ back to advocating, the AgChat Foundation began the “Why Do I AgVocate?” series in the spring of 2015. It is an opportunity for you to review your path, share your challenges, refocus and set goals for the future.

Can we share your why? Send us an email at comm@agchat.org for additional information.


written by Jenny Schweigert, executive director

2016 Cultivate & Connect Closing Keynote Announced

This year’s theme at the Cultivate & Connect conference is People. Perseverance. Progress. Its only fitting that the closing keynote speaker is a people person who has live perseverance and overcome adversity to achieve the progress no experts ever believed she could.

In 2010, a renowned rodeo cowgirl with numerous buckles, awards and a world championship title, came face-to-face with the event which would change her life. As she was traveling to the Denver Stock Show and Rodeo, her vehicle veered off the interstate, rolling seven times, eventually coming to a stop without its passenger. Later that day, emerAmberley Snyder to speak at the 2016 Cultivate & Connect conference in Kansas City - www.KansasCity.AgChat.orggency room doctors informed Amberley Snyder that her back had been broken and she would never regain use or feeling below the waist. Walking was impossible. Getting back on the horse was out of the question.

Through remarkable perseverance, Snyder’s passion and competitive spirit prevailed. The lessons she has gained are ones she wouldn’t trade. While she is a highly decorated cowgirl, reaching heights beyond most 18 year-old’s dreams, it was that unfortunate winter morning which gave her life’s meaning.

“You can be a good person without those titles. I had to become who I was as a person,” Synder shared. “I want people to know that if you aren’t bringing home those titles and awards, you can still be a great person. You can still change lives of everyone you come into contact. You can’t touch people’s lives if you give up.”

Snyder will close the 2016 Cultivate & Connect conference in inspirational form, providing agvocates motivation to persevere through the challenges. Registration for the conference is now open with a discounted rate of $268 for farmers, ranchers and growers.

Visit www.KansasCity.AgChat.org for additional information, including the agenda with session descriptions.

First Comes Blogging, Then Comes…

First Comes Blogging, Then Comes . . .

Entering the online agvocating family can be somewhat overwhelming because of so many options. Many lean automatically to blogging, which can be done in a variety of ways.  Some opt for a website; others use their personal Facebook page or a designated blog page to share the good word of agriculture.  Farmers and ranchers, accustomed to relative anonymity, will suddenly find themselves answering requests for interviews with trade publications, radio stations and ag companies looking to amplify a farmer’s individual voice.

Along with these opportunities comes a host of other requests – a headshot, pictures of the farm, biographies and resumes.  Some bloggers will receive requests to write guest posts, endorse products or offer book reviews.  Quickly, farmers can find their online agvocating efforts taking a significant amount of time.

Having certain items at the ready can help save time and respond to requests in a professional manner.

Headshot: A simple headshot is worth paying for.  A headshot is literally just that, a picture of you from mid-chest up with a neutral background.  Many print and or online publications will request a picture of you on the farm, and need something other than a shot taken on your phone.  Quality photos are a must.  Any professional photographer can provide you with a variety of digital options.

Biography: If you’ve been asked to speak or sit on a panel, you will be asked for a biography.  This is not your introduction.  A biography should be no longer than one page describing you, your family, your farm and any interests you may have.  Writing about yourself is hard, but if you don’t share your story no one else will know it.  Start by sharing where you are now – a brief bit about your family and your farm; then explain the past, where did you grow up, attend school, college or trade school and your major.  Then move to your community and church activities.  Finally, share ways to contact you – social media channels, blog site, handles, etc.  You might feel like sharing your volunteer efforts, awards, and community involvement is bragging, but these things build credibility in your message.

Pictures of the Farm: Start building a file of your personal stock farm photos.  Planting corn, snap a pic.  Spraying, snap a pic.  Outside building fence.  Planting your garden.  Take a picture.  The most mundane of tasks can actually serve to illustrate the most basic of agriculture topics.  AND make sure YOU are in some of these pictures, which is difficult if you normally serve as your farm’s photographer.

You might feel awkward preparing these materials and they might sit in a file folder for a bit, but when those requests come you’ll be ready and feel better about entering into a world very different from yours.


katie-prattKatie and her husband, Andy, are seventh generation farmers raising farm kids, corn, soybeans, and seed corn with Andy’s family in north central Illinois.  Their farm serves as a platform to talk to people from all walks of life. In addition to hosting their adopt-a-classroom class from Chicago, the family has welcomed teachers, international implement dealers and bloggers to the farm. Katie serves as the county’s ag literacy coordinator and brings Ag in the Classroom lessons to more than 3,000 youth attending elementary, jr. high and high schools.

Follow her blog, Facebook & Twitter.

Why Do I AgVocate? – Brenda Rudolph

What is your role in agriculture?

My husband and I are dairy farmers.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

It was when Everett was little. I was having a hard time explaining to some of my really good friends who have no ag background of how hard it was with a little one in tow doing chores. “Let Nate finish.” “Just don’t milk them at night.” I realized how disconnected people are from dairy farming. I live in a community where dairy is prominent and my fellow non-farm moms have no idea where their food comes from but they want to know. I realized I needed to start telling our farm story. Telling our story how we live, work, laugh, and cry together.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

The best is when we take Everett’s cow 304 to school, the fair, or the FFA petting zoo. Anywhere kids get to pet her interact with her. Children and adults are able to stand right next to her, brush her and get first hand look at a Holstein cow. I love when people ask questions, it shows they care and they truly want to know. I ask questions about other parts of ag I don’t know about.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

The hardest part is the words. Industry words and consumer words are completely different. Just like every family has a language all their own, words in ag and words to the consumer have completely different meanings. Many don’t understand dairy farming, every picture I post online I look at it through the eyes of the consumer. I do this to ensure the meaning of the picture is clear.

What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

You don’t need to be on a soapbox. Don’t take offense when questions are asked. I am a firm believer in “If you want to know the answer you have to ask the question.” Agvocacy doesn’t need to be big grand gestures. It can be encouraging words to kids who take animals to the fair. When you see a mom put milk in her cart, thank her for making healthy choices for her kids. I look at agvocacy as I am not just representing my own farm but all parts of ag. I need to do that to the best of my ability.

What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?

I attended the AgChat event in Nashville 2015, my biggest take away was the attendees passion for ag. No matter the area we are all wanting to know and learn more. We want to do better telling our story, how to be more effective with less words. Taking home cotton grown in Georigia. I still have in my china cabinet.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

AgChat foundation is a resource for all involved in agriculture. It is a place to go to when questions are needed to be answered for consumer. It is also a place for agvocates to be recharged and get refocused why the need for agvocacy is there.


brenda ruldophBrenda and her husband Nathan dairy farm in Central Minnesota milking 110 Holsteins. Brenda is proud to say her children are the 6 th generation on their dairy farm. Brenda and Nathan purchased the farm from Nathan’s parents in 2011 becoming the sole owners. Brenda and Nathan share the work load. In the mornings and evenings Brenda can be found milking cows side by side Nathan with their two children, Everett 7, and Vivian 1 tagging along every step of the way.

Follow Brenda on her blog, Facebook & Twitter

Turkey Talk: June is Turkey Lover’s Month

June is Turkey Lovers Month2016 marks the 27th year of “June is Turkey Lovers’ Month” but if I was a betting woman, I’d say most people don’t even know that this fun designation exists. Our friends over in the dairy industry share June with us and, in all fairness, they snagged it for Dairy Month long before turkey came around, so I can understand why this might be a little more visible.

Plus, everybody loves ice cream, right?

What’s interesting, though, is how this shows both the strides the turkey industry has made in the past three decades as well as the challenges still before us.

We’re eating more turkey – but we need to eat more!

Turkey consumption has increased a whopping 110 percent since 1970. What was once considered a Thanksgiving bird has morphed into a year-round protein option with a variety of cuts and products available.  But we can do more – and our industry is poised to show folks just how versatile turkey is for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The benefits of year-round turkey production

Year-round turkey production wasn’t always a thing because turkeys typically were raised outdoors. In Minnesota where I’m from, turkey farmers could only raise turkeys from April or May until October for pretty obvious reasons – turkeys were not about to survive the brutal winters we have if they lived outside. Luckily, our farmers had the foresight and wherewithal to move their birds into climate-controlled barns, growing their businesses in the process. Raising turkeys in barns also had the added benefit of protecting turkeys from predators and threats of diseases.

Minnesota’s big on turkeys

Today, many of the same farm families who made these monumental changes to their production methods are still raising turkeys today, so there is a wealth of knowledge from which to learn. Minnesota is also home to some of the most entrepreneurial families in the turkey industry, who created, for example, what is now the world’s largest turkey hatchery company (Willmar Poultry Company) and the 2nd largest turkey company in the U.S. (Jennie-O Turkey Store).

It’s not hard to see why Minnesota is ranked #1 for turkey production in the U.S. – and has been for quite some time.

What’s next?

We’re excited to be working together as an industry, in efforts coordinated by the National Turkey Federation, to increase consumption of turkey to 20 pounds per person by 2020. (It’s currently at about 16 pounds per person.)

In Minnesota, we’re also working every day to show folks what turkey farming – real, honest-to-goodness, modern turkey farming – looks like today. We’re combating persistent myths like turkeys grow so big and fast because of added hormones and steroids. (Not true. In fact, it’s illegal to give ANY added hormones or steroids to poultry in the U.S.) And we’re utilizing social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube), our website, and a soon-to-debut blog to connect our farmers with consumers.

Lara Durben

As we round out June, I hope you will join me by adding a little extra turkey to your meals in celebration of June is Turkey Lovers’ Month. If you’re in need of some fabulous, family-friendly ways to #tryturkey, I encourage you to visit my blog, My Other More Exciting Self, where I share a new turkey recipe almost every Tuesday and also write often about poultry.

Why Do I AgVocate- Krista Stauffer

What is your role in agriculture?

My husband and I have a first generation dairy farm in Washington State. We started in 2009 and celebrate another year doing what we love every June. We have three kids and milk on average 140 cows. I serve on several local boards including our county farm bureau and FSA committee. I am a CommonGround volunteer and board member for the AgChat Foundation.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

Prior to meeting my husband, I really had no knowledge of dairy farming. I learned so much so fast when we were dating and quickly realized I had a lot of misconceptions. I started sharing our story when I realized that my own family had misconceptions about what we do and that I needed to speak up. It actually started with a really nasty comment that was made about what someone “thought” we did on our farm. It made me angry and it hurt at the same time. How could someone that knew me since I was born say such a thing. Don’t they know to ask me? Well, no… they didn’t. I was “too busy” farming to engage with people about what we did. I really was, but I now know that you can’t be too busy to advocate. It needs to be part of your daily routine.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

Honestly, all the amazing opportunities that have come to share our farm on a much larger platform. I have traveled all over the country the past two years working with organizations, food bloggers, presenting to other farmers/ranchers, etc. I love when farmers tell me that I inspired them to speak up or when a consumer says a simple “thank-you” for answering their questions. BUT my favorite moments are when a vegetarian or vegan says “thank-you” for caring for my cows so well even if they do not agree with using them as food. That is something to be proud of.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

This may come to a surprise or maybe it wont but the most challenging part is other farmers/agvocates. I have met some of the most amazing farmers/ranchers from all over the world. I have made such awesome friends in the AG community because of agvocating. With that said, some of my biggest critics are other farmers and agvocates. There is always someone to point out how you are doing something wrong. Maybe it is a farming practice or how you tell you story. It’s sad really. As farmers/ranchers, we are out numbered. The voices speaking out against us are loud, well organized and we are simply outnumbered. Just as no two farms are the same, you will not find two advocates that share their story the same way. To be honest, we should expect people too. We need everyone telling their OWN story and staying true to who they are.

What advice for other farmers/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

Just do it. You don’t have to start a Facebook page or Twitter to agvocate. Write a letter to your local paper about your farm, join the local chamber of commerce to interact with other business owners in your community, sponsor a youth sports team, invite the school to your farm, ask the school if you can speak to the kids, etc. Clean up the front of your farm, make a new farm sign, make custom swag for your farm to wear around the community, etc. There are so many simple things that can shine a positive light on your farm and help start the conversation for you. Whatever you do, just do something. We need all the positive voices we can get.

What is your biggest takeaway or  memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?

The first conference I attended, it was so nice to just sit down & talk to other farmers that understand the need to speak up. It was like, “I have found my people”. Haha

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

The AgChat Foundation is incredibly important for the world of agriculture. It helps unite agriculture and provide the tools farmers need to amplify their story. I am very excited to be on the board and using what I have learned to help other farmers & ranchers.


Krista Stauffer 1Krista is a wife, mother of three & first generation dairy farmer. Together with her husband, they milk 140 cows in Washington State. She blogs at thefarmerswifee.com and shares her farm on multiple social media platforms.

Follow her on: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & Pinterest.






I was thirty-two years old before I ever tasted a papaya.  Growing up in the 80’s in a small California town, the exotic things didn’t show up in our grocery stores.  I think the most unusual fruit I had growing up was kiwi, mostly because my pharmacist father would sometimes get paid in produce.  I loved those boxes of fruit, a lot more than the time he was paid with a bear roast.

Living in Iowa in the 90‘s didn’t exactly bring about more selection in the produce department, and even if it did, I wouldn’t have had the knowledge of how to select a papaya.  Do I buy them green?  Are those spots OK?  Should they be hard or soft?

Photo credit/Emma Stoltzfus

Photo credit/Emma Stoltzfus

It wasn’t until I moved to Hawaii almost a decade ago that I had my first taste of this delightful fruit.  One bite and I was hooked.  There’s nothing better for breakfast than a fresh slice of papaya sprinkled with a little lime juice, unless it’s half a papaya filled with yogurt, blueberries, and granola.  Either option is delicious.

While I was living my papaya oblivious existence in the middle of the Midwest, back in Hawaii a crises was occurring on Hawaiian papaya farms.  The ringspot virus was taking over farms on the Big Island, causing damage and death to both the plants and the fruit.  While farms were being devastated, Dennis Gonsalves was spending his time looking for a solution.  It didn’t take him long to develop a genetically modified plant that was resistant to the ringspot virus, and by 1999, the seeds were given, free of charge, to Hawaii papaya growers.  Today, about 77% of the Hawaiian papaya crop is genetically modified, and those farmers, once on the brink of closing their doors, are still in business.

In our house, we go out of our way to purchase the Rainbow papaya developed by Dr. Gonsalves.  They are, in my opinion, the tastiest papayas on earth.

June is National Papaya month, so if you haven’t already, try this tasty treat. Look for fruit of yellow/orange color, not too soft and not too hard, with a slight sweet smell.  A little green is not a problem, but an all green papaya isn’t ripe and may not ripen completely.  Slice it up, and save the skin for the compost pile.  When you go to scoop out the seeds, don’t throw them out!  Those seeds will make the base for a tasty salad dressing.  Aloha!

Rhonda grew up in Northern California, graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Horticulture, and was lucky enough to marry a farm boy. She established a fruit farm in SE Iowa before following her farmer, David, to Hawaii where he grows seed corn. Her life in Maui currently revolves around 3 teenage children and all things agriculture. The Stoltzfuses were recently honored as the Hawaii Farm Bureau Family of the Year.